Nakaoka Shintaro (中岡慎太郎)

Shintaro NAKAOKA (May 6, 1838 - December 12, 1867) was a political activist involved in the fight to restore imperial rule. He was the leader of the Rikuentai, an army formed during the last days of Tokugawa shogunate. His original name was Koji, and then later changed to Michimasa. He had several pen names, including Toyama and Uzan. He used Seinosuke ISHIKAWA as his assumed name. He was awarded the official rank of Shoshii (Senior Fourth Rank) in 1891.


He was born in Kashiwagi Village, Kitagawa-go, Aki County, Tosa Province (present-day Kashiwagi, Kitagawa-mura, Aki-gun (Tosa Prefecture), Tosa Prefecture) as the first son of Kodenji NAKAOKA, headman of Kitagawago Village, and Hatsu NAKAOKA. He entered a martial arts training school run by Zuizan TAKEICHI (also known as Hanbeita). In 1861, he joined the Tosaginno Party that TAKEICHI had formed, taking an active part in its political activities.

In 1862, he visited Shozan SAKUMA at Matsushiro with Gensui KUSAKA and Tamaki SHISHIDO, who were both of outstanding ability from Choshu clan, where they discussed national defense and political reform, which heightened their motivation for political activity.

In 1863, with the start of a big crackdown on the Sonno Joi (Revere the Emperor, Expel the Barbarians) movement in Tosa domain that followed the August 18 Incident (which falls on September 30 in the Gregorian calendar) in Kyoto, he quickly escaped the domain and in October of the same year, he sought refuge in Mitajiri, Choshu domain (now Hofu City). Thereafter, he became the leader of samurai who sought refuge in Choshu. He became a guard in the service of Sanetomi SANJO, who was one of the seven court nobles who was deported to Mitajiri from Kyoto, and acted as an important liaison between restoration activists in Choshu and those spread throughout Japan.

In 1864, he went to Kyoto under the name of Seinosuke ISHIKAWA. He schemed to assassinate Hisamitsu SHIMAZU of Satsuma clan, which failed, and he also led his followers in the Kinmon Incident and the Shimonoseki War as the Choshu side, where he was wounded.

Knowing that false charges were being brought against Choshu clan, witnessing the hostility between the major clans that was causing more harm than good, and seeing the suppression of the restoration activists, Shintaro changed from acting to protect the Emperor and exile barbarians to actively working to overthrow the shogunate by force (according to a letter written by Shintaro NAKAOKA at about this time). Thereafter, his priority became forming an alliance between Satsuma and Choshu and he arranged a meeting between Kogoro KATSURA (also known as Takayoshi KIDO) of Choshu and Takamori SAIGO of Satsuma. Shintaro maintained contact with Sanetomi SANJO and actively served as a liaison to all the exiles from Satsuma and Choshu, involving Ryoma SAKAMOTO of Kaientai (a group of leaderless warriors) and Kusuzaemon HIJIKATA (also known as Hisamoto HIJIKATA), who served as Sanjo's guard. On March 7, 1866 (or March 8), he was able to lead the two clans to a reconciliation and finalized the alliance between Satsuma and Choshu at the Satsuma residence in Nihonmatsu, Kyoto.

In March of 1867, the charge against him and Ryoma SAKAMOTO of fleeing Tosa domain was dropped. Later, he engaged in forging an alliance between Satsuma and Tosa, starting with successfully forming a secret pact between Taisuke INUI (also known as Taisuke ITAGAKI) of Tosa and Tatewaki KOMATSU and Kichinosuke SAIGO of Satsuma on June 23.

Furthermore, he continued to work to win over Tosa clan in earnest. And, on July 23, at 'Yoshidaya,' a restaurant in Sanbongi, Kyoto, a pact was formed to overthrow the shogunate and restore imperial rule; the parties to the pact were Tatewaki KOMATSU, Ichizo OKUBO (also known as Toshimichi OKUBO), Kichinosuke SAIGO of Satsuma, and Sazen TERAMURA, Shojiro GOTO, Taisuke INUI, Toji FUKUOKA (also known as Takachika FUKUOKA), Seinosuke ISHIKAWA (NAKAOKA) and Umetaro SAITANI (also known as Ryoma SAKAMOTO).

On July 27 of the same year, the pact between Satsuma and Tosa was expanded to include Aki, which was a neighboring domain of Choshu, further strengthening ties among major clans. However, at that time, the Tosa and Aki clans themselves tried to petition the Tokugawa Shogunate for the return of the Emperor's power; furthermore, Yodo YAMAUCHI still strongly felt indebted to the head of the Tokugawa family. Until the;ead pf Satsuma and Choshu forces became apparent in the Toba-Fushimi War that took place in January of the following year, these alliances between Satsuma and Tosa, and Satsuma, Tosa and Aki, were not able to exercise power.

These military alliances, formed through the efforts of Shintaro and Ryoma, led to the opportunity to reform the old military system in Tosa clan, allowing Tosa to become a major power, one equivalent to Satsuma, Choshu and Hizen during the Boshin War. At the same time, the alliances accelerated a rise in the awareness of the part that the domains needed to play to change the feudal and shogunate systems, and the need to draw up a government vision for after the overthrow of the Tokugawa shogunate. To move ahead with the plan, Tosa was placed in a position to lead through the last days of the Tokugawa shogunate and enter the Meiji period with power equivalent to Satsuma, Choshu and Hizen.

In July, he began to organize the Rikuentai, learning from the Kiheitai system in Choshu that he had been closely observing. He became the head of the Rikuentai and established its headquarters at the Shirakawa Tosa clan residence. At about this time, he wrote "Jiseiron," an explanation of anti-Shogunate and anti-foreigner theory.

On December 10, Shintaro was attacked and received a near-fatal injury when he was visiting Ryoma SAKAMOTO at Omiya in Kyoto. Ryoma died instantly (or early the following day), and Shintaro lived for two more days. He gave Tateki TANI a detailed account of the assassins' attack before succumbing on December 12. He was 29 years old.

He was buried at the Kyoto-Ryozan-Gokoku-Jinja Shrine in Higashiyama Ward, Kyoto City. A bronze statue of him stands at Muroto-misaki Cape. This statue is said to be facing Ryoma SAKAMOTO's statue in Katsurahama.

In the Tosa clan, village headsmen were transferred around, and so the Nakaoka family's roots are not in Muroto. The Nakaoka family was part of the Fujiwara clan, and the family crest is a cotton flower in a circle.

The Nakaoka Shintaro Memorial Museum was established at his birthplace, Kashiwagi, Kitagawa-mura, Aki-gun, Kochi Prefecture. The museum is approximately 20 minutes from Nahari Station on the Tosa-Kuroshio Railway's Asa Line by Kitagawa Village-operated bus.

Shintaro and Ryoma SAKAMOTO were attacked together at Omiya; however Shintaro lived for two days after the attack and said of the attack that the assassins shouted 'Konakuso' (meaning "Damn you" in Iyo dialect). It seems he said he wanted to eat fried rice.

His last words were; 'That which may seem vulgar today may be precious tomorrow.
The potential to be a man of little consequences or to become a man of virtue lies in the mind of each man.'

There are many novels and TV dramas about the Satsuma-Choshu alliance, the Satsuma-Tosa pact, and the return of political power to the Emperor by the Tokugawa Shogunate with an emphasis on Ryoma SAKAMOTO; however, there is debate as to who the central person in these events was. Some historians think it was Nakaoka. It remains unclear as to how much of Ryoma's western legislative ideology Nakaoka agreed with.

In a book entitled 'JAPAN' that was published to introduce Japan in the US in 2000, Nakaoka's statue in Muroto is mistakenly labeled as Ryoma SAKAMOTO's.

[Original Japanese]